Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
Only one band has the charisma, the credentials, the catalog and the ka-ching caliber to trigger box-office pandemonium.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones!
Today the band announced it will kick off a nine-city North American leg of its 50 and Counting tour in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. The date will be announced pending the NBA/NHL playoff schedules. The tour will visit Oakland, San Jose, Las Vegas, Anaheim, Toronto, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.
Tickets for Oakland, San Jose, Toronto and Chicago go on sale beginning Monday at 10 a.m. local time and will be available at www.rollingstones.com. Ticket prices were not announced.
"50 and Counting has been pretty amazing so far," Mick Jagger said in a release. "We did a few shows in London and New York last year ... and had such a good time that we thought ... let's do some more. It's a good show. Lots of the classic stuff everyone wants to hear ... with a few little gems tucked in here and there. The stage is shaped like lips and goes off into the venue so I get to run around in the crowd. It's great fun to be able to get that close to the audience."
Keith Richards added, "From day one at rehearsals it sounded so fresh. You could tell that everybody was dying to get their teeth into it. It was like ... open the gates ... let us out! 'Cause man, it is the life and blood of us to play in front of people."
"Any year the Stones are touring is special," says Ray Waddell, Billboard senior editor/touring. "The Rolling Stones are one of the few guaranteed home runs in the live music business and have been since the early '80s. They are in an elite class. They don't compete with other bands. There is no substitute. That's why their ticket prices are what they are. How many opportunities do rock 'n' roll fans get to witness history, and maybe more importantly, how many more chances will there be?
"So while their ticket prices are typically the highest, so is the level of what's being offered. Few bands can serve up such a revered canon of songs that are so meaningful in rock and still play them at a very high level. All the talk about how high Stones tickets are misses the point: You get what you pay for. I saw them in December. They killed it."
Waddell has covered every Stones tour since Steel Wheels in 1989. Since then, the band has likely grossed at least $2 billion at the box office worldwide (receipts are incomplete) and another $1 billion in ancillaries like merchandising, sponsorships, live albums and DVDs, he estimates.
"They print money," he says, noting that the band's run of five 50 and Counting shows in late 2012 grossed $38.7 million, according to Billboard Boxscore.
That short stint ranked 33rd among 2012 tours, according to Pollstar. Tickets averaged $529 each, the priciest of the year's top 50 tours and more than double the cost of the next highest, $263 for an average Barbra Streisand ducat.
Price was no barrier. Every Stones show sold out.
"In terms of the business of touring, the Stones either invented it, improved upon it, and/or changed it forever," Waddell says "They've broken ground in the areas of production, sponsorships, merchandising, VIP ticketing and overall touring economics. So many things that are a matter of course in the live business today originated with the Rolling Stones. But none of that would matter if they weren't simply a kickass band with kickass songs."
The Stones' last global outing was A Bigger Bang, which grossed $558 million from August 2005 to August 2007. It stood as history's biggest until U2's ambitious 360 tour in 2009-11 set new records for attendance (7.2 million) and gross ($736 million).
The Stones "won't come anywhere near breaking U2's record because they won't play near as many dates and the venues won't be anywhere near the capacity that U2 played," Waddell says. "U2's record may stand forever because of the unique nature of that tour and that band."
The Stones' tour news ends months of speculation that included the band's own tease campaign in the days leading up to Wednesday's announcement. The band posted #StartMeUpWednesday countdown hints on Twitter and Facebook and plastered billboards in the Bay Area and Las Vegas with their iconic tongue logo and such song titles and lyrics as Satisfaction and "You Get What You Need."
The band previously announced a headlining date June 29 at England's Glastonbury Festival and will also perform July 6 and 13 at London's Hyde Park.
TBA, Los Angeles, Staples Center
May 5, Oakland, Oracle Arena
May 8, San Jose, HP Pavilion
May 11, Las Vegas, MGM Grand Garden Arena
May 15, Anaheim, Honda Center
May 25, Toronto, Air Canada Centre
May 28, Chicago, United Center
June 12, Boston, TD Garden
June 18, Philadelphia, Wells Fargo Center